Mexican former drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s wife pleaded guilty Thursday to U.S. charges after spending time in jail since her February arrest at Virginia’s Dulles International Airport.
Emma Coronel Aispuro (Coronel) went before a federal court in Washington in order to plead guilty to multiple federal charges, according to the Associated Press.
According to the Justice Department, Coronel is charged with “knowingly, intentionally, and willfully” conspiring with others to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine, “knowing and intending that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States.”
NPR reported that investigators also state that she was a main player in Guzmán’s escape from prison in 2015 “when he got out of Altiplano prison via an underground tunnel connecting a hole under his prison cell shower to a nearby warehouse stocked with guns and armored cars. According to court documents, she also tried to organize a second escape after the drug boss was imprisoned a year later.”
“She also pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge and to engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker,” the AP noted.
In a Twitter thread, Vice News reporter Keegan Hamilton described the hearing, writing:
Judge: “To summarize, if you plead guilty in this case and I accept your guilty plea, you will give up all those rights I just explained to you, because there will not be any trial and there will probably be no appeal… do you understand that?”
Emma Coronel: “Sí”
El Chapo’s wife Emma Coronel Aispuro is set to appear in federal court this morning in Washington, DC, where she’s expected to plead guilty to international drug charges.
The hearing starts in about 20 minutes — will cover as it unfolds, stay tuned for updates on this thread…
— Keegan Hamilton (@keegan_hamilton) June 10, 2021
Hamilton added that Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said Coronel “’controlled commercial and residential properties’ owned by El Chapo and ‘derived income from them by renting them.’ Says she violated the Kingpin Act b/c she’s a US citizen and had ‘financial entanglements’ w/ a sanctioned narcotics trafficker.”
According to the Obama White House archives, “The Kingpin Act became law on December 3, 1999. Its purpose is to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the U.S. financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals.”
In 2009, former President Barack Obama identified the Sinaloa Cartel — “El Chapo’s” criminal group — as “foreign persons…appropriate for sanctions pursuant to the Kingpin Act.”
AP reported that Nardozzi said Coronel “served as a go-between” to bring messages to members of the cartel after “El Chapo” was taken into custody “and also conspired with Guzman’s sons to ‘plan and coordinate’ his prison escapes.”
Per Hamilton’s Twitter thread, the Judge asked Coronel, “Are you entering this plea because you are guilty and for no other reason?” Emma Coronel answered, “Sí.”
Judge explains Coronel faces a max sentence of life in prison under count 1 of her information (for drug conspiracy) — and a minimum of 10 years, but he has discretion to go above or below that. “Nothing will be certain” until judge gets pre-sentence report.
Coronel is 31 years old and is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico since she was born in California. Per NPR, “[s]he is believed to be Guzmán’s third wife, though there are rumors he has a fourth. The pair married when she was 18 and he was 39 and they have twin girls.”
In 2019, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was found guilty on all charges in U.S. court. Throughout his trial, witnesses came forward to testify against Guzmán’s well-known acts of violence.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said at the time that the verdict “will bring a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.”
“It is a sentence from which there is no escape, and no return,” Donoghue said. “This conviction is a victory for the American people, who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border.”
Guzmán is serving out a life sentence at a maximum-security prison in Colorado.
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